Importing modules from parent folder


I am running Python 2.5.

This is my folder tree:


(I also have in each folder, omitted here for readability)

How do I import the nib module from inside the life module? I am hoping it is possible to do without tinkering with sys.path.

Note: The main module being run is in the ptdraft folder.

Asked By: Ram Rachum



It seems that the problem is not related to the module being in a parent directory or anything like that.

You need to add the directory that contains ptdraft to PYTHONPATH

You said that import nib worked with you, that probably means that you added ptdraft itself (not its parent) to PYTHONPATH.

Answered By: hasen

You could use relative imports (python >= 2.5):

from ... import nib

(What’s New in Python 2.5) PEP 328: Absolute and Relative Imports

EDIT: added another dot ‘.’ to go up two packages

Answered By: f3lix

If adding your module folder to the PYTHONPATH didn’t work, You can modify the sys.path list in your program where the Python interpreter searches for the modules to import, the python documentation says:

When a module named spam is imported, the interpreter first searches for a built-in module with that name. If not found, it then searches for a file named in a list of directories given by the variable sys.path. sys.path is initialized from these locations:

  • the directory containing the input script (or the current directory).
  • PYTHONPATH (a list of directory names, with the same syntax as the shell variable PATH).
  • the installation-dependent default.

After initialization, Python programs can modify sys.path. The directory containing the script being run is placed at the beginning of the search path, ahead of the standard library path. This means that scripts in that directory will be loaded instead of modules of the same name in the library directory. This is an error unless the replacement is intended.

Knowing this, you can do the following in your program:

import sys
# Add the ptdraft folder path to the sys.path list

# Now you can import your module
from ptdraft import nib
# Or just
import ptdraft
Answered By: Ricardo Murillo

Relative imports (as in from .. import mymodule) only work in a package.
To import ‘mymodule’ that is in the parent directory of your current module:

import os
import sys
import inspect

currentdir = os.path.dirname(os.path.abspath(inspect.getfile(inspect.currentframe())))
parentdir = os.path.dirname(currentdir)
sys.path.insert(0, parentdir) 

import mymodule

edit: the __file__ attribute is not always given. Instead of using os.path.abspath(__file__) I now suggested using the inspect module to retrieve the filename (and path) of the current file

Answered By: Remi

same sort of style as the past answer – but in fewer lines πŸ˜›

import os,sys
parentdir = os.path.dirname(__file__)

file returns the location you are working in

Answered By: YFP

Here is more generic solution that includes the parent directory into sys.path (works for me):

import os.path, sys
sys.path.append(os.path.join(os.path.dirname(os.path.realpath(__file__)), os.pardir))
Answered By: Mike

You can use OS depending path in “module search path” which is listed in sys.path .
So you can easily add parent directory like following

import sys

If you want to add parent-parent directory,


This works both in python 2 and 3.

Answered By: Shinbero

Work with libraries.
Make a library called nib, install it using, let it reside in site-packages and your problems are solved.
You don’t have to stuff everything you make in a single package. Break it up to pieces.

Answered By: user3181121

Here is an answer that’s simple so you can see how it works, small and cross-platform.
It only uses built-in modules (os, sys and inspect) so should work
on any operating system (OS) because Python is designed for that.

Shorter code for answer – fewer lines and variables

from inspect import getsourcefile
import os.path as path, sys
current_dir = path.dirname(path.abspath(getsourcefile(lambda:0)))
sys.path.insert(0, current_dir[:current_dir.rfind(path.sep)])
import my_module  # Replace "my_module" here with the module name.

For less lines than this, replace the second line with import os.path as path, sys, inspect,
add inspect. at the start of getsourcefile (line 3) and remove the first line.
– however this imports all of the module so could need more time, memory and resources.

The code for my answer (longer version)

from inspect import getsourcefile
import os.path
import sys

current_path = os.path.abspath(getsourcefile(lambda:0))
current_dir = os.path.dirname(current_path)
parent_dir = current_dir[:current_dir.rfind(os.path.sep)]

sys.path.insert(0, parent_dir)

import my_module  # Replace "my_module" here with the module name.

It uses an example from a Stack Overflow answer How do I get the path of the current
executed file in Python?
to find the source (filename) of running code with a built-in tool.

from inspect import getsourcefile  
from os.path import abspath  

Next, wherever you want to find the source file from you just use:


My code adds a file path to sys.path, the python path list
because this allows Python to import modules from that folder.

After importing a module in the code, it’s a good idea to run sys.path.pop(0) on a new line
when that added folder has a module with the same name as another module that is imported
later in the program. You need to remove the list item added before the import, not other paths.
If your program doesn’t import other modules, it’s safe to not delete the file path because
after a program ends (or restarting the Python shell), any edits made to sys.path disappear.

Notes about a filename variable

My answer doesn’t use the __file__ variable to get the file path/filename of running
code because users here have often described it as unreliable. You shouldn’t use it
for importing modules from parent folder in programs used by other people.

Some examples where it doesn’t work (quote from this Stack Overflow question):

β€’ it can’t be found on some platforms β€’ it sometimes isn’t the full file path

  • py2exe doesn’t have a __file__ attribute, but there is a workaround
  • When you run from IDLE with execute() there is no __file__ attribute
  • OS X 10.6 where I get NameError: global name '__file__' is not defined
Answered By: Edward

The pathlib library (included with >= Python 3.4) makes it very concise and intuitive to append the path of the parent directory to the PYTHONPATH:

import sys
from pathlib import Path
Answered By: itmatters

import sys

Answered By: Andong Zhan

Don’t know much about python 2.
In python 3, the parent folder can be added as follows:

import sys 

…and then one is able to import modules from it

Answered By: Rob Ellenbroek

In a Linux system, you can create a soft link from the “life” folder to the file. Then, you can simply import it like:

import nib
Answered By: Erel Segal-Halevi

For me the shortest and my favorite oneliner for accessing to the parent directory is:



sys.path.insert(1, os.path.dirname(os.getcwd()))

os.getcwd() returns the name of the current working directory, os.path.dirname(directory_name) returns the directory name for the passed one.

Actually, in my opinion Python project architecture should be done the way where no one module from child directory will use any module from the parent directory. If something like this happens it is worth to rethink about the project tree.

Another way is to add parent directory to PYTHONPATH system environment variable.

Answered By: zviad

I posted a similar answer also to the question regarding imports from sibling packages. You can see it here.

Solution without sys.path hacks


  • Wrap the code into one folder (e.g. packaged_stuff)
  • Create a script where you use setuptools.setup().
  • Pip install the package in editable state with pip install -e <myproject_folder>
  • Import using from packaged_stuff.modulename import function_name


I assume the same folder structure as in the question

└── ptdraft
    └── simulations
        └── life

I call the . the root folder, and in my case it is located in C:tmptest_imports.


  1. Add a to the root folder

    The contents of the can be simply
    from setuptools import setup, find_packages

    setup(name='myproject', version='1.0', packages=find_packages())

Basically "any" would work. This is just a minimal working example.

  1. Use a virtual environment

If you are familiar with virtual environments, activate one, and skip to the next step. Usage of virtual environments are not absolutely required, but they will really help you out in the long run (when you have more than 1 project ongoing..). The most basic steps are (run in the root folder)

  • Create virtual env
    • python -m venv venv
  • Activate virtual env
    • . venv/bin/activate (Linux) or ./venv/Scripts/activate (Win)
  • Deactivate virtual env
    • deactivate (Linux)

To learn more about this, just Google out "python virtualenv tutorial" or similar. You probably never need any other commands than creating, activating and deactivating.

Once you have made and activated a virtual environment, your console should give the name of the virtual environment in parenthesis

PS C:tmptest_imports> python -m venv venv
PS C:tmptest_imports> .venvScriptsactivate
(venv) PS C:tmptest_imports>
  1. pip install your project in editable state

Install your top level package myproject using pip. The trick is to use the -e flag when doing the install. This way it is installed in an editable state, and all the edits made to the .py files will be automatically included in the installed package.

In the root directory, run

pip install -e . (note the dot, it stands for "current directory")

You can also see that it is installed by using pip freeze

(venv) PS C:tmptest_imports> pip install -e .
Obtaining file:///C:/tmp/test_imports
Installing collected packages: myproject
  Running develop for myproject
Successfully installed myproject
(venv) PS C:tmptest_imports> pip freeze
  1. Import by prepending mainfolder to every import

In this example, the mainfolder would be ptdraft. This has the advantage that you will not run into name collisions with other module names (from python standard library or 3rd party modules).

Example Usage

def function_from_nib():
    print('I am the return value from function_from_nib!')

from ptdraft.nib import function_from_nib

if __name__ == '__main__':


(venv) PS C:tmptest_imports> python
I am the return value from function_from_nib!
Answered By: np8

Above mentioned solutions are also fine. Another solution to this problem is

If you want to import anything from top level directory. Then,

from ...module_name import *

Also, if you want to import any module from the parent directory. Then,

from ..module_name import *

Also, if you want to import any module from the parent directory. Then,

from ...module_name.another_module import *

This way you can import any particular method if you want to.

Answered By: Ravin Gupta

I found the following way works for importing a package from the script’s parent directory. In the example, I would like to import functions in from app.db package.

└── my_application
    └── alembic
    └── app
        └── db
import os
import sys
currentdir = os.path.dirname(os.path.realpath(__file__))
parentdir = os.path.dirname(currentdir)
Answered By: Yu N.

In a Jupyter Notebook (opened with Jupyter LAB or Jupyter Notebook)

As long as you’re working in a Jupyter Notebook, this short solution might be useful:

%cd ..
import nib

It works even without an file.

I tested it with Anaconda3 on Linux and Windows 7.

Answered By: Thomas R

Although it is against all rules, I still want to mention this possibility:

You can first copy the file from the parent directory to the child directory. Next import it and subsequently remove the copied file:

for example in

import os
import shutil

shutil.copy('../', '.')
import nib

# now you can use it just fine:

Of course there might arise several problems when nibs tries to import/read other files with relative imports/paths.

Answered By: JLT

I made this library to do this.

# Just add parent path

# Append to syspath and delete when the exist of with statement.
with add_parent_path(1):
   # Import modules in the parent path
Answered By: fx-kirin

I had a problem where I had to import a Flask application, that had an import that also needed to import files in separate folders. This is partially using Remi’s answer, but suppose we had a repository that looks like this:

└── service
    └── misc
        └── categories.csv
    └── test

Then before importing the app object from the file, we change the directory one level up, so when we import the app (which imports the, we can also read in miscellaneous files like a csv file.

import os,sys,inspect
currentdir = os.path.dirname(os.path.abspath(inspect.getfile(inspect.currentframe())))
parentdir = os.path.dirname(currentdir)

from app import app

After having imported the Flask app, you can use os.chdir('./test') so that your working directory is not changed.

Answered By: Casper Hansen

Though the original author is probably no longer looking for a solution, but for completeness, there one simple solution. It’s to run as a module like this:

cd ptdraft
python -m

This way you can import anything from as ptdraft directory is in the path.

Answered By: tjk

Our folder structure:


The way I understand this is to have a package-centric view.
The package root is ptdraft, since it’s the top most level that contains

All the files within the package can use absolute paths (that are relative to package root) for imports, for example
in, we have simply:

import ptdraft.nib

However, to run for package dev/testing purposes, instead of python, we need to use:

cd /myproject
python -m

Note that we didn’t need to fiddle with any path at all at this point.

Further confusion is when we complete the ptdraft package, and we want to use it in a driver script, which is necessarily outside of the ptdraft package folder, aka project_using_ptdraft/, we would need to fiddle with paths:

import sys
sys.path.append("/myproject")  # folder that contains ptdraft
import ptdraft
import ptdraft.simulations

and use python to run the script without problem.

Helpful links:

Answered By: Sida Zhou

I think you can try this in that specific example, but in python 3.6.3
enter image description here

Answered By: Gin

This works for me to import things from a higher folder.

import os
Answered By: Ricardo D. Quiroga

It’s seems to me that you don’t really need to import the parent module. Let’s imagine that in you have func1() and data1, you need to use in

import as life
def func1():
data1 = {}
life.share(func1, data1)

func1 = data1 = None

def share(*args):
   global func1, data1
   func1, data1 = args

And now you have the access to func1 and data in Of course you have to be careful to populate them in before you try to use them,

Answered By: Miroslav Hinkov

Two line simplest solution

import os, sys
sys.path.insert(0, os.getcwd()) 

If parent is your working directory and you want to call another child modules from child scripts.

You can import all child modules from parent directory in any scripts and execute it as

python child_module1/
Answered By: Vinoj John Hosan

I have a solution specifically for git-repositories.

First I used sys.path.append('..') and similar solutions. This causes especially problems if you are importing files which are themselves importing files with sys.path.append('..').

I then decided to always append the root directory of the git repository. In one line it would look like this:

sys.path.append(git.Repo('.', search_parent_directories=True).working_tree_dir)

Or in more details like this:

import os
import sys
import git
def get_main_git_root(path):
    main_repo_root_dir = git.Repo(path, search_parent_directories=True).working_tree_dir
    return main_repo_root_dir
main_repo_root_dir = get_main_git_root('.')

For the original question: Based on what the root directory of the repository is, the import would be

import ptdraft.nib


import nib
Answered By: Thomas R

This is the simplest solution that works for me:

from ptdraft import nib
Answered By: mj_whales

After removing some sys path hacks, I thought it might be valuable to add

My preferred solution.

Note: this is a frame challenge – it’s not necessary to do in-code.

Assuming a tree,

└── pkg

Where contains

import sys, json; print(json.dumps(sys.path, indent=2)) 

Executing using the path only includes the package directory

python pkg/

But using the module argument includes the project directory

python -m pkg.test

Now, all imports can be absolute, from the project directory. No further skullduggery required.

Answered By: Wyrmwood

You can use the sys.path.append() method to add the directory containing the package to the list of paths searched for modules. For example, if the package is located two directories above the current directory, you can use the following code:

import sys

if the package is location one directory above the current directory, you can use below code:

import sys
Answered By: Rj_Innocent_Coder